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TODAY at No. 16: OKLAHOMA Coach: Bob Stoops (168-44, entering 17th season; 168-44 overall) 2014 record: 8-5, 5-4 in Big 12; tied for fourth...

college football winnersTODAY at No. 16: OKLAHOMA

Coach: Bob Stoops (168-44, entering 17th season; 168-44 overall)

2014 record: 8-5, 5-4 in Big 12; tied for fourth

Look back: After opening with four straight wins, Oklahoma went through a tough stretch that featured just two wins in five games. Losses to ranked opponents TCU, Kansas State and Baylor set the Sooners back and highlighted problems throughout the team. A last-second loss to Oklahoma State and a blowout loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl wrapped up one of the Sooners’ more disappointing seasons in recent memory.

Offensive starters returning: 7

Offensive starters lost: 4

Defensive starters returning: 6

Defensive starters lost: 6

Key losses: TE Blake Bell, OL Adam Shead, OL Tyrus Thompson, OL Daryl Williams, LB Geneo Grissom, S Quentin Hayes, DT Chuka Ndulue, DT Jordan Phillips, CB Julian Wilson, P Jed Barnett

Top returnees: C Ty Darlington, QB Trevor Knight, WR Sterling Shepard, RB Samaje Perine, LB Dominique Alexander, LB Jordan Evans, CB Zach Sanchez, LB Eric Striker, DE Charles Tapper, S Ahmad Thomas

Strengths: Oklahoma led the Big 12 in rushing last season thanks, in part, to All-American Samaje Perine. The talented running back led the league in rushing with 1,713 and 21 touchdowns, with an impressive 6.5 yards per carry average on the season. “It’s hard to improve on where he [Perine] was, but I believe he will,” Stoops said. “He’s such a great, great worker, very humble guy that’s always hungry. He’s really trimmed up a bit. He probably lost five pounds, but he’s faster and still has the same strength and maybe more strength with another year in the weight room. So I believe he’ll just continue to improve.”

The Sooners return more than 90 percent of their receiving production from last season highlighted by the team’s leading receiver – Sterling Shepard, who had 51 receptions for 970 yards with five touchdowns.

Three of the team’s top four tacklers return, led by linebackers Dominique Alexander (107 tackles), Jordan Evans (93 tackles) and Eric Stricker (68 tackles, 9 sacks).

Weaknesses: At this time last season, Trevor Knight was enjoying the spoils of an impressive performance in a victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Now, it appears the junior quarterback will start the season as the backup to Baker Mayfield. Knight passed for 2,300 yards with 14 touchdowns, but his 12 interceptions were tied for the second-most in the league last season. Mayfield, a transfer from Texas Tech, was impressive during spring practice and appears to be the favorite heading into training camp despite the fact he last started a game in November 2013.

Oklahoma only features one returning starter on an offensive line that allowed a league-low nine sacks in 2014. Center Ty Darlington, a former Apopka High star, will anchor the group in 2015, but he’ll have several new faces around him with both tackle positions are up for grabs after the departures of Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams.

Outlook: Oklahoma football is at a bit of crossroads. Despite double-digit wins in seven of the past 10 seasons, Stoops decided to make major changes to the coaching staff. Will it be enough to compete with formidable Big 12 teams TCU and Baylor?

2015 SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Akron

Sept. 12 at Tennessee

Sept. 19 Tulsa

Oct. 3 West Virginia

Oct. 10 vs. Texas (Arlington)

Oct. 17 at Kansas State

Oct. 24 Texas Tech

Oct. 31 at Kansas

Nov. 7 Iowa State

Nov. 14 at Baylor

Nov. 21 TCU

Nov. 26 at Oklahoma State

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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